Troy Roberts & Tim Jago : Best Buddies Review

Troy-Roberts-Tim-Jago-cdTroy Roberts is back and causing a ruckus with his buddies from Australia. The album is titled Best Buddies and is a co-project with guitarist Tim Jago. Both are a part of Roberts’ Nu-Jive Five ensemble that has earned a reputation for their hard-hitting live shows and messing of styles that has bucked jazz trends to push their music to new territory beyond mainstream jazz. With Best Buddies, the two are releasing a series of biting, creative, and celebratory songs based on well-known jazz harmonic progressions and forms with new original melodies, otherwise known as a contrafact. Roberts and Jago are joined by Karl Florisson on acoustic bass and Ben Vanderwal on drums. The album contains nine selections, with more than a few of those being drenched in the post-bop tradition, but the album is most impressive when the Australian ensemble demonstrates their nuance in communication.

Opening with the Jago original melody, “Chythm Ranges” – based on “I Got Rhythm” changes – the ensemble sets out its fluidity and talent immediately. A vigorous theme is performed with saxophone and guitar rooted in bop songwriting. The compact space for each chord is the nature of the challenge of the progression, and Roberts and Jago melodically execute this with ease as each phrase feels like a call to action. The two trade phrases, building off each other and communicating with keen lyricism. This is hard-swinging jazz that brings the world of eighth note phrasing to a level of fist-pumping for chorus after chorus.

That said, there’s more to Best Buddies than bop anthems. The conversational nuance in “Halfway House in C Major” illustrates their wisdom as performers and Roberts as a composer/arranger. The flow feels like a definitive step forwards, musically and stylistically – while creating an ambiance that fuels excitement as they sync with their peers. The contrapuntal nature of the melody and solos is an unrestrained musical statemen of persona that cements a focus on the conclusion that these four players have a new perspective to move forward with that is still clearly based in the jazz language, while reaching out for other inspirations. In this instance, it is a classical-baroque style, featuring spontaneous, interactive contrapuntal lines.

Ultimately, though, it’s the pointed highs of ensemble listening and communication that rings out loudest throughout the nine selections. Though the tunes are constructed over well-known changes, the compilation of parts from various standards and the different feel given to sections of the forms distills a flow with an undeniable jazz taste but still sounds ‘fresh.’ The sound of the quartet is always one of finding the feel, coming into the space, and making the most essential steps forwards as they communicate with their, Best Buddies.